Wine! From the grape to your glass (PART 2)

Oct 7, 2010

  With my father’s help, I began the vinification process yesterday. The grapes were purchased on Monday and allowed to sit to reach ambient temperature before crushing. I decided to produce a blend of Alicante and Carignan, 15% and 85% respectively. The Alicante is used to generate a deep red color in the wine and the Carignan for its flavor.

  From this point on the process itself is pretty straight forward. The grapes are first sent through the grinder. If you don’t happen to have access to a grinder then make sure you wash your feet thoroughly because you’ll be stomping the grapes. From there the must & skins are put to the press. This process can take several hours to a couple of days. My father emphasized that this step should not be rushed. It can be tedious but this is where the characteristics of the wine are created.

  While we waited my father shared a few stories of when he made wine in Madeira and some of the special traditions during this season. One tradition is to toast to the wine being produced with wine that had been produced in the past. He came prepared, because this was my first attempt I had nothing to toast with. He opened a 9 year bottle of fortified wine that I had helped him make back in 2001.

Tasting Notes on my father’s fortified wine;

The wine was golden brown in color. A slightly toasty note on the nose, it has some characteristics of some Madeira’s, with hints of molasses and caramel, toffee and figs. Sweet in the mouth, smooth, and nicely balanced. A good long pleasant finish.


The must was then collected and poured into the barrels. My 30 gallon barrel will be the home of the table wine, while the diminutive 10 gallon will house the fortified wine. I could go on and explain the process of fortification that will take place in the upcoming weeks, but unfortunately it’s a family secret!

Now we wait. The fermentation process should begin on Thursday according to the lunar cycle. My father explained that according to Portuguese traditions almost everything that has to do with agriculture is based on the lunar cycle. This year the Harvest Moon occurred on September 23rd and the new moon falls on the 7th & on the 23rd of October a full moon. Some produce their wine when a Harvest Moon occurs, but because the Harvest Moon was early this year I will rely on the new moon and full moon. Once the fermenting has finished, the barrels will be sealed untill November.

November 11th otherwise known as Veterans Day here in America, just so happens to be St. Martin’s Day in Portugal. St. Martin’s Day is celebrated by tasting the new wine. And as we say in Portuguese “No dia de São Martinho vai à adega e prova o vinho!” Translation: “On Saint Martin’s day go to the cellar and try the wine!” Simple enough!

I feel that I have learned allot more than what I expected, but most importantly I feel asthough I cannot let the knowledge that I have gained go to waste. I hope to carry on this tradition in the future and one day pass it on as it has been done for generations.

Come November I’ll update you on the end result. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or swing by The Jug Shop!